Authors have long noted the human penchant for self-esteem. Experimental research has revealed that this desire for self-esteem has wide-ranging effects on cognition, emotion, and behavior. Terror management theory explains that this desire for self-esteem results from a fundamental need for psychological security, which is engendered by humans’ awareness of their own vulnerability and mortality. A large body of evidence has supported this explanation. Specifically, substantial lines of research have shown that self-esteem buffers anxiety and reduces defenses against death and that reminders of mortality increase efforts to defend and bolster self-esteem. Complementary findings have helped clarify the role of culture in self-esteem striving and the ways in which people can vary in their level, stability, and sources of self-esteem. I conclude by briefly considering how this contemporary knowledge regarding the quest for self-esteem informs current events and daily life.
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